On Sunday, Senator Claire McCaskill gave a full-throated defense of the president's decision to release five Taliban commanders from the Guantanamo prison in exchange for Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl. "We saved this man's life. The commander-in-chief acted within his constitutional authority, which he should have done," McCaskill, a Democrat from Missouri, told Fox News host Chris Wallace. "I'm very proud that we have no POWs left in Afghanistan and the president should be proud of it also."
But following multiple reports that Bergdahl deserted his post and soldiers died searching for him, McCaskill will no longer say she still supports the deal she was "very proud" of just 48 hours ago. "I'm not going to comment until I look at the brief," an annoyed McCaskill told THE WEEKLY STANDARD. "I'm not going to comment until I look at the brief," she repeated, referring to a classified briefing senators will receive tomorrow.
McCaskill was not alone in her reluctance to support the deal. More than a dozen Democratic senators questioned by TWS Tuesday afternoon declined to defend it. "I just don't know enough about it. I really don't," said Dick Durbin of Illinois, the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate.
"It's very disturbing," said Joe Manchin of West Virginia. "Everything you hear. I'm going to reserve judgment until after we have a secured briefing tomorrow."
"You know, I think, um, let me hold off on that," said Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
"All I've heard is what I've read in the press," said Vermont's senior senator Pat Leahy.
"I don't have enough information at this point in time," said Jon Tester of Montana. "I do think getting our boys back home, that's a good quality. I do have some issues about whether [Bergdahl] deserted or not."
"I need to know more about the law," Tester added when asked if the president broke the law by not giving Congress 30 days notice that the Gitmo detainees would be released.
"Everything affects the calculus," said Carl Levin of Michigan. "It's an excruciating decision the president has to make, that decision as to whether he would do it. Would you use a nuclear weapon to get back a soldier? I mean, no."
"It depends on all the facts and circumstances of the case," Levin added. "I'm not going to give you a conclusion in the case because I don't know all the circumstances."
Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York declined to comment when asked if it was a good deal. In addition, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Chris Coons of Delaware, and Mark Begich of Alaska said they're reserving judgment.
The only senator who explicitly supported the deal on Tuesday was Majority Leader Harry Reid. "I'm glad to get rid of these five people," Reid said during his press conference, referring to the Taliban commanders. "Guantanamo has been there far too l ong. And I think we should get them out of there as quick as we can. We've been held up from doing that by Republicans."
Reid said he would support an open Senate hearing on Bergdahl and that the president didn't break the law by failing to provide notification to Congress that he would be releasing five Gitmo detainees. "I've been told no, he did not violate the law," Reid said, without identifying the person who told him that.